Chicago mayor says taxpayers may have to foot bill for budget shortfall

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is warning taxpayers that City Hall may dip into their pockets to bail out a big budget shortfall.

Unlike other mayors around Illinois, though, Lightfoot has not cut any jobs. In fact, the city is still hiring.

On Tuesday, after revealing the city of Chicago will fall at least $700 million short of balancing this year's budget, Mayor Lightfoot finally mentioned the solutions some aldermen believe she has already chosen.

“Raising property taxes and layoffs have to remain on the table. Those are the last choices and tools that I want to use,” Lightfoot said.

The mayor said new hiring has slowed down while City Hall was shut down but has continued even as tax revenues plunged, especially from the hospitality industry in Chicago.

Hospitality and tourism help power the boom downtown, where 65-percent of Chicago’s economy is and a huge proportion of tax payments come from.  But the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association says some of its members are already broke, killing more than 130,000 jobs.

“As our hotels struggle to fill their rooms and generate business, I think what were temporary furloughs are now more and more becoming permanent eliminations or layoffs,” said Michael Jacobson.

FOX 32 asked Jacobson if the city is going to lose some hotels and/or if are they simply going to go out of business.

“Yes. You're already hearing some hotels [have been] sent to special servicers to begin the foreclosure process,” he answered.

“Now our $700 million shortfall is conservative, in part, because no one can predict with any accuracy now how a recovery will take hold,” Lightfoot said.

Some experts, though, do offer a prediction. They say it will take at least 3 to 4 years before Chicago’s once-booming tourism and convention business returns to pre-COVID levels, which is very bad news for downtown.